After visits from my parents, older sister, and one of my best friends from home, I’ve transformed from tourist to tour guide in a matter of months. Despite the initial pressure of fitting everything I love about Granada into just a few short days, I’ve come up with a list of things I think should be on everyone’s Granada checklist.
- Just Wander
So much of Granada’s charm exists in the cobblestone streets and buzzing plazas, putting this seemingly simple activity at the top of my list. Leaving flexibility in your schedule to just wander will give you the chance to admire countless tapas bars and pastry shops, different views of the Alhambra, unique street art, historic architecture, and get a feel for the city’s social scene and charm.
- Visit the Alhambra
It’s no surprise that the emblem of Granada and Spain’s second-most-visited tourist attraction is a must-see on a trip to Granada. This iconic fortress bursts with architectural, mathematical, and historical treasures. As you make your way through the lush gardens and ornate palaces, you’ll see what brings tourists and locals to marvel at this unique landmark. Definitely make a trek up the hill to check out the Alhambra—but book your tickets very far in advance as they sell out sometimes months before you may be arriving (sorry mom and dad)!
3. Try Tapas in Different Barrios
Just like any city, each barrio or neighborhood in Granada has its own personality. Unlike most cities, however, in each of these barrios exist tapas bars where you can enjoy a free small plate with every drink. This is one of Granada’s most iconic traits and also one that my student budget loves. While you can get free tapas at pretty much any restaurant bar in Granada, you should make it a point to explore the city while also getting to know Andalusian cuisine. First try one of the many bars in the bustling Realejo, then get a feel for the University of Granada student life near Plaza Einstein or find a plaza in the historic Albaicín. Use Granada’s delicious and cheap tradition of free tapas to experience each unique part of town.
- Lose Yourself in the Albaicín
The previously mentioned Albaicín is the perfect place to get lost in Granada. With winding cobblestone streets lined with white houses, you’ll find a new detail to fall in love with at every corner. Take some time to take some wrong turns and just enjoy the beauty of the vibrant flowers, the smell of jasmine and feeling as though you’ve stepped back in time. This is not an activity recommended for suitcases, which my sister may have learned the hard way (oops!).
- Ski the Sierra Nevada
Take a trip away from the city and head up to the Sierra Nevada for a ski day. Whether you are an experienced skier/snowboarder or not, it’s nearly impossible to beat a day on these gorgeous slopes. You can rent all the possible equipment you might need at the mountain and take the bus right from the bus station in Granada. Don’t forget your sunscreen! With slopes open through April, you’ll have powder beneath your feet and an intense sun overhead.
- Hit the Beach
Just a bus ride away from Granada to Salobreña or the breathtaking caves and beaches of Nerja, you can ski down from the mountains on Saturday and get a nice tan at the beach on Sunday. Enjoy Granada’s perfect location and get the best of both worlds with a relaxing day at the beach.
- Find the Best Views
Assuming you’ve already had a chance to explore inside the Alhambra, don’t leave Granada without enjoying the view from the other side. Head to Mirador San Nicholas or Mirador San Miguel Alto to watch the sunset and marvel at the Alhambra presiding over Granada’s beautiful cityscape and historic Albaicin. Although sometimes a bit touristy and crowded (San Nicholas more than San Miguel Alto), the views are worth it!
- Learn Something New
Whether or not you cook, taste olive oil or try local wine, book a class or experience that gives you a hands-on look into the culture of Granada and Spain. My family is a big fan of Airbnb Experiences, but there are hundreds of opportunities out there to take advantage of. My parents and I learned to make seafood paella, salmorejo, sangria, Spanish tortilla, and crema Catalana in Sacromonte—not only was it one of our fondest memories of the trip, but some of the best food we ate all week!
Though there are at least a million more things I’d love to add to the list—visiting the Cathedral, having tea and Arabic sweets in one of the many tea shops or Teterías, hiking behind the Alhambra—I’m not sure I’d be able to stop. In any city you travel to, part of the beauty is finding the unexpected and unplanned treasures. So, head to Granada with a plan, but not too much of a plan. If you find yourself looking for more recommendations, ask a local…or an IES Abroad student!
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<p>Hi, I'm Nina! A proud Jersey girl and sophomore at Penn State, I have a passion for all things food, music, culture and crafting. Join me as I test my Spanish skills while living out my Andalusian adventure this semester!</p>